After the Webinar: Why CIT? Q&A with Jesse Trevino

Webinar presenter Jesse Trevino answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Why CIT? Unpacking Why Mental Health Crises are a Police Function and Likely Will Be for the Foreseeable Future. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: So, if we’re a cop, and we roll up on a situation. We don’t know if the person we’re encountering really does have an SMI, or if they’re just acting out, or if they’re a con luring us into a dangerous situation. How do we approach these situations where we might be encountering people who are seriously mentally ill without jeopardizing our own personal safety? 

Jesse Trevino: Well, the first thing I’ll say is that is why the more we know about this, the better. The more we learn about personality disorders, the more we learn about serious mental illness, everything that you would get in the training, will make you more savvy to what it is you’re dealing with. So, nothing about CIT would ask you to abandon these things. That’s a common question we get initially on Monday and then by Friday, the light bulb goes off. So, there’s nothing that would ask you not to look at the world that way or to think about that. Additionally, what I tell people is the reality of CIT is, that while the Memphis model was birthed from a non-CIT type call and what do I say is everything about CIT training is supposed to be within the realm of the first two levels of the use of force continuum. So, presence and ——– It has nothing to do with anything else after that. So, we would never ask you to abandon or to not use tactics or any other principles you’ve learned. It marries those. I often ask new officers, how many of them have been in officer-involved shootings. I think every 5 to 7 trainings, one person will raise a hand, and I’ll thank them for that. I ask the room, “How many of you guys have been trained with your firearms ——–?” Everyone in the room? “How many of you have been through a CIT training?” No one in the room often has, sometimes one person. “Well, how many of you spoke to somebody in a crisis in your career?” Everyone raises their hand. So, I find it interesting that we place so much emphasis on what happens less than 1% of the time and not being experts when we deal with 99% of the time. And the last thing I’ll say is, that we in law enforcement always think about the bad guy with a gun as the ——-. As a profession, 3 to 4 times, the most dangerous thing in our profession is our mind. We die by suicide 3 to 4 times than in a line of duty death, yet our profession does not prioritize our own mental health. So, I argue again, that promoting mental health, both internally and externally, promotes safety on their own.


Audience Question: Do we have more people who are mentally ill because we’re getting better at diagnosing? Or is there actually a growth in mental illness in our country, and if so why? Or is it a both and? 

Jesse Trevino: I think it’s both. I really do believe that the more we learn, the more we teach people, the more we’re pulling in a society where we want people to go out and get help. You know that’s going to happen. But also, if you look at the state of the world, I don’t often look at articles. I try to stay away from ——– and use less as much as possible. But someone I respect, and share it, a therapist I know. It made me look at the article and last year’s suicides were the highest in recorded history since it started recording in 1941. Last year, which is heartbreaking to hear, which also leads to all of this, right? The topic is an important one. So, I think it’s multiple variables culminating altogether. I really do. There are also things that we didn’t think about. I know I’m 44 years old, some of you, maybe a lot younger in the group, maybe older. But social media wasn’t a thing when we were kids. It wasn’t something that we saw. Essentially, when I went home, my school problems stayed in school, and when I went to school, my home problems stayed at home. Because today, they don’t have that. And they looked at all the nuances, it was a great article. If you e-mail me, I could share it with you. But it came out today, and the numbers were staggering. So, I just think there are so many things about society that we’re doing that are poor for mental health, then everything just piles on top of each other.


Audience Question: Here in Boston, family members will call the police often to help the family member take the flipping medication as you were talking about earlier. And more than once a disturbed citizen was met with lethal force. I agree with you. It should absolutely be a cultural shift, supporting those who take medicine. What are your thoughts, Jesse, on this? 

Jesse Trevino: Well, I will say, first, know your state law. Another disturbing thing I found is it’s an amazing place we’ve been in this country, officers have been on for decades, and they did not know their mental health coach whatsoever, which is disturbing. So, medication is a difficult topic. I tell people for a CIT assessment because what we’re doing is, what we hope is, we’re able to communicate with them. We get information that’s relevant to a decision maker, we let them know, this is what’s going on in hopes that we’ll get more treatment, longer stay, something. And too many families get really comfortable using law enforcement as their personal authority for things, get my kid to school, go to bed, you know, do your homework, and take their medication. There are a lot of legal and ethical concerns with trying to act on that. It isn’t our role in our view. Even people with letters after the last name that should be, are delicate with this, medication compliance is a huge issue. Now, if there’s a court order involved and you’re serving that court order, there’s been a judge, and you are the deputy that’s been assigned to go get that person, so they can get the medication forced. Or if you work in a jail or the order has been signed, go with the judge’s order. But, if mom’s like, “Timmie is not taking his pills, make him,” for your protection, I would caution on that. And it’s sad because, yes, people can handle their lives. They call the police to come, a negative outcome happens and then they blame the cops. Super unfortunate. It is devastating that an officer is going to admit when medication regimen, and non-compliance call and it ends up in deadly force encounter. All because society doesn’t know what’s going on with it.


Audience Question: You talked about how a properly trained police officer will almost always better respond than anyone else. Could you expand on this thought and share where this thought process or where the data comes from? 

Jesse Trevino: Yes, I’d love to. What I find is law enforcement requires a lot of training and a lot of experience in dealing with stressful situations and communicating with other people. If you hone them, and you get them to look at mental illness in a different way, first by looking at their own and then they utilize the skills and empathy, it comes out well. And it’s been from my experience. Our biggest, and I’m not saying always, I’m saying, generally speaking, most often, whenever I train law enforcement officers, I’ve never had one issue, or a law enforcement officer, or any other first responder for that matter, has been terrified of scenarios, that’s been terrified to the point of tears, or left the training because scenarios were a part of it. They start doing scenarios in law enforcement, from the moment they can walk, if you know, all right. It’s like, a second language to them. And a lot of the people that are being hired, and it also depends on who what we’re talking about, right? A lot of people, especially in rural settings, they’re —– crisis workers straight out of high school with no experience, no knowledge, or education, but sometimes social workers surprise me with how they handle things. Some social workers are super jaded and angry at the world and they take the anger out on the people they are meeting in the field. But there are going to be times when a person, when our civilian training, that they will collapse in the scenarios, they’ll start crying, they’ll quit the training, and I don’t think there’s anything we do that’s necessarily scary or degrading, it’s all for developmental purposes. And that was eye-opening to see, and these persons are working in mobile crisis ——- or trying to get jobs as co-responders, or they’re working in psychiatric hospitals, which is concerning. I think because of the higher caliber it takes to become a law enforcement generally speaking, anyway. Now those things are changing, but the amount of training involved, it’s just them getting the right type of training. And to make that up in a person that just finished school, trying to get them experience and knowledge in addressing the crisis and dealing with human stressors at that level for so long, getting caught up. It’s very hard to do in a three-day training. And that’s generally my experience with it and with my other instructors as well. But you know, I’m not going to give you a journal it’s not going to be funded like the journal chronology or something.


Audience Question: How do you address systemic racism and trauma, and the potential response from a person with mental illness to a law enforcement response?

Jesse Trevino: That deserves a whole webinar. Joe does a very good job at this, my partner. In our curriculum, we, part of our curriculum, as we teach officers about ACES, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. Officers learn their own ACES score. And we teach officers, and this is the first time they realize that, in many cases, especially in the mid-west, the ——– officer who’s been there, they lived a very good life. Maybe that’s why they got into this profession because they lived the good life, they had good parents, very little trauma, and they want to do good, and protect that for others. They’re going to communities where people have ACES scores of four or higher. And when they learn the dynamics of this, and how ACES are being affected especially in communities of color, the racial dynamics involved in this. You see empathy enter a room, like from an awareness standpoint. So, I think first we discuss, how trauma is disproportionately affecting populations. Then talk about what trauma does to the brain and how it influences human behavior. And then realize whether, also in major cities, officers have a lot of trauma, childhood, and adult that they’re not dealing with, and that is influencing how they interact with others. Nobody’s a jerk for no reason. There’s a reason why somebody is a jerk. I was a jerk for the few years I was starting as a cop. Why? Because my ACES score is an eight. My dad was a meth addict, he’s —– system, and I wanted to punish the world with what happened to me. I thought the way we fix this problem was to arrest the POSs out there. And I probably did more harm than good in my first few years. But after going through CIT and having an awareness like, “Whoa, I’m pretty messed up here, I’ve got to fix this and this,” and also the way I’m handling people isn’t fixing anything. So, I hope that answers your question, but that is a very deep question, profound, as Christina pointed out.


Audience Question: If we learned nothing else from today, what should we take away from today’s webinar that will help us do our jobs better, allow us to serve, and help our communities better which, no doubt, has people who are mentally ill? 

Jesse Trevino: The more we know about this topic, I think it will improve the functionality of whatever role we’re in here in the criminal justice or first responder/response profession. It’s something you face, and we should know about it. Simply complaining about it, being like, “Oh, this call again.” But that isn’t going to go away. It’s in our face, whether we like it or not, and we should be as proficient at it as we are in driving, shooting, and fighting. If we work in the court system as a process itself, whatever it is that we do, it should be, we should know a lot about it. And, if we’re honest, look at the numbers, it’s probably touching with you personally, in some aspect, too. So, that’s, if any other reason, that should be it.



Click Here to Watch a Recording of Why CIT? Unpacking Why Mental Health Crises are a Police Function and Likely Will Be for the Foreseeable Future



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